Mumbai: Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Sunday invited the Shiv Sena, the second largest party, to stake claim to form government, hours after the BJP declined such attempt.
"The Sena will have to inform the governor about its stand by Monday (November 11) evening 7:30 pm," a Raj Bhavan official said.
In a stunning political development, the BJP on Sunday conceded its inability to form the government in Maharashtra despite having the public mandate for its pre-poll alliance.
In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP and the Sena each has 105 and 56 MLAs, respectively.
Opposition Congress and NCP won 44 and 54 seats, respectively, in recent assembly polls. The halfway mark is 145.
Koshyari asked Sena legislative party leader Eknath Shinde to "indicate willingness and ability" of the party to form government in Maharashtra, a Raj Bhavan statement said.
The governor had on Saturday invited the BJP, the single largest party, to stake claim to form government.
However, with the BJP unable to muster numbers in view of the Sena's stand not to support it on the issue of sharing of power and the post of the chief minister, the party on Sunday declined to form government.
"The Governor has, therefore, asked the leader of elected members of the second largest party, Shiv Sena, Eknath Shinde, to convey its willingness and ability to form the government," the statement said.
With the BJP backing off from the race, the onus to form government now rests with the Sena, which has indicated that it might rope in the Congress and the NCP to prop up a government.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut had earlier claimed support of 170 MLAs.
Announcing the BJP's decision, its Maharashtra president Chandrakant Patil accused the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, which is adamant on its demand for a rotational chief ministership, of "disrespecting" the popular mandate.
"If it (Shiv Sena) is in a position to form the government along with the support of the Congress - NCP, our best wishes are with them," said Patil, who was flanked by his former minister colleagues like Ashish Shelar, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde and Girish Mahajan, at the brief media interaction on the lawns of Raj Bhavan.
Outgoing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis - who has confidently proclaimed till Saturday that the BJP would form the government - was conspicuous by his absence.
Reacting to the development, NCP's national spokesperson Nawab Malik said that there is no formal proposal from the Sena on the government formation.
The opposition Congress also conducted informal discussions with its legislators, currently flown to Jaipur, to gauge their mood on supporting the Sena, though the party high command has already expressed its reluctance in the matter.
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday said the party would install its chief minister at any cost.
"How will BJP have its chief minister when they are not staking a claim to form government," Raut said.
The Congress in Maharashtra on Sunday said it didn't want President's Rule in the state which is in the midst of a political crisis in view of the BJP's announcement that it would not form government.
Senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said newly-elected MLAs of the party will seek advice from the party high-command over its future political stand in the state.
Chavan said he was in favour of forming a stable government in Maharashtra.
There were contradictory opinions in Mumbai - while former city President Sanjay Nirupam reiterated that the Congress should keep off the Sena at all costs, another former city chief Milind M Deora suggested exploring a Congress-NCP government with Sena support.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)